Monday, July 20, 2015

Antwerp and Brussels

After Amsterdam I headed south for a couple of days in each of Antwerp and Brussels. Neither city has canals like Amsterdam but both have beautiful old centres with centuries-old buildings. Antwerp is also a major centre for the diamond trade so in one neighborhood there were a lot of orthodox Jews and kosher food outlets. I preferred more non-kosher fare, like beer and bacon.

In Antwerp I also went to the house of the famous painter Rubens. I didn't know much about him, aside from painting ladies with some curves to them, and figured he would have some tiny (by our standards) house in the center of town. It turns out that in his day he was the most famous painter in the region so had no difficulty having Dutch aristocracy buy his work -- he was rich and his home was a mansion.

Ironically because he could easily sell all of his work the Rubens museum didn't have a lot of his paintings. Most of the artwork were either by his students or were paintings Rubens himself collected. Many of his paintings were in the Museum of Art in Brussels (I went there as well)

While in Brussels I went to the Comic Strip Museum, a cool place with all sorts of comic strips on display, not just the Belgian favorites of Tintin and the Smurfs. I also toured the Magritte Museum, dedicated to the Belgian surrealist (you might not recognize the name but you do know his work -- google image search it). What I found most amusing about Magritte was he steadfastly refused to embrace a stereotypical artist lifestyle, he basically dressed like a banker and lived a typical middle-class existence in a small house in Brussels. Many in the art world disliked him because of this. It took decades before he started receiving wider recognition.

Food in Belgium has been hit-or-miss so it really helps to get recommendations from people on where to go. Found some nice places in Antwerp and Brussels but have also found some duds (such as almost anywhere near the Grand Plaza in Brussels. I'm also struggling with Belgian fries. I rarely eat fried foods so sitting down with a big plate of fries is challenging, even more so when drenched with mayonnaise, another thing I rarely eat. I can feel my arteries hardening as we speak.

Chocolate, on the other hand, I'm having no problem adjusting to.


Anonymous said...

Stick to the beer and the moules

Glen McKay said...

Beer, yes. Moules? Mussels? Of all of the major Belgian foods mussels were the thing I didn't bother with. I'm not really into shellfish, even shrimp, lobster or crab.